With an overloaded schedule of international charity events and cooking demonstrations, New York seafood guru Eric Ripert, executive chef Le Bernardin, racks up frequent flier miles faster than you can say salmon tartare. Now, with the opening of his new West coast restaurant, Azur, in Palm Springs last November, Ripert has been spending at least week a month on the road. Here are some travel tips from a chef on-the-go:
Tip # 1 Caviar and foie gras make the best in-flight meal.
On a long flight, I like to spoil myself, especially when I am traveling with my wife. We make it a little party and bring a tin of caviar. Traveling with other chefs is even better, we make it a bigger party. The last time I went to Caracas, we did it like a country style picnic. Daniel [Boulud] brought the foie gras, Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] brought cured meat, I brought caviar. Everyone brought wine. Usually they say you can't bring your own wine. It's okay as long as you share some with the flight attendants!
Tip #2 When dabbling in messy sauces, always carry a spare shirt - and pack it carefully.
I always pack at least one chef's jacket per day plus a backup. You never know if you are going to sweat a lot. Plus, I have a tendency to put my finger in the chocolate and then it always spills on me. But I have a trick for keeping my chef's jackets from wrinkling. I keep them in the plastic bag from the laundry and I take the hanger out. Then I roll them like a cigar and they come out beautiful.
Tip #3 If it's essential, carry it on.
I always take a knapsack on board with extra socks and underwear and my toiletry bag. That way in case they lose my luggage I am safe. There was a time when they were always loosing my luggage a few years ago. The worst was once when I got it a week later at the end of the trip. Literally I picked it up at the airport myself, on the way back. That was terrible.
Tip #4 Create a calming environment.
I get those long alter candles from the Spanish stores and bring them with me. Then I light them in my hotel. It creates an ambiance that makes me feel at home. It also helps me meditate, which relaxes me.
Tip #5 Don't forget to bring a good book - or half a dozen.
Personally I would never travel without my cookbooks. On a long trip I might take five or more. On my last trip to Azur I took Hot, Salty, Sour, Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, Nobu: The cookbook, one of Alain Ducasse's books, Terra: Cooking from the Heart of Napa Valley, and a little booklet on Mexican food I bought at the airport. I bring a mix because I never know what might inspire me.
Tip #6 If you can't get what you need when you get there, send it ahead.
At Le Bernardin the menu is focused on seafood. It's the same at Azur. But people always ask where do we get our seafood from in the deserts of Palm Springs. But we get it from exactly the same place as we do for Le Bernardin. We love Fed-ex and DHL! The quality of the fish is perfect. No, if we stuck to what is really regional at Azur, we would have to serve snake.